World War II Aviation Museum Gets $6 Million to Triple in Size

July 11--The National Museum of World War II Aviation has received $6 million in grants from a California foundation to build a permanent exhibit and education hall that will more than triple the size of the museum now operating in temporary quarters at the Colorado Springs Airport.

The museum received $1 million in late June to begin design and development work on a 60,000-square-foot building that will be called Aviation Hall. It also received $5 million grant that must be matched by other donations to fund construction, said Bill Klaers, co-chairman of the museum's board.

Museum board members hope to raise the matching funds from other foundations and donors so construction can begin by April and be completed in time to allow Aviation Hall to open in early 2016, he said.

"This project will be a huge step forward for the (museum). It will create a world-class venue that will allow us to fully document the story of World War II aviation and honor those who contributed and sacrificed so much to win the war," said Jim Stewart, the board's other co-chairman.

Aviation Hall will expand the museum's exhibit space from 14,000 to 40,000 square feet and include another 20,000 square feet of space for aircraft mechanic education programs operated by Broomfield-based Redstone College and could also include space for programs by Pikes Peak Community College, Challenger Learning Center, a nonprofit developing a physics curriculum and an after-school program offered through the Pikes Peak United Way. The museum's current space would be converted to storage once Aviation Hall is open.

The foundation gave the museum a $300,000 grant a year ago to fund a science, technology, engineering and math education program for two years. More than 3,500 students participated in the program during the 2013-14 school year.

Slattery Foundation President James Slattery is no stranger to the museum. A Grumman F7F Tigercat fighter restored by Klaers' WestPac Restorations Inc. is housed in one of the museum's hangars and will be featured in an air show next month at the Colorado Springs Airport. He owns a collection of more than 40 vintage aircraft used in World War II and plans to eventually build the Greatest Generation Naval Museum in San Diego to display them.

"Over the past year, the Slattery family closely followed the development and progress of the (Colorado Springs) museum and its educational program. We look forward to being part of the museum's efforts to preserve such an important part of our nation's aviation heritage," according to a letter informing the museum of the grant.

Slattery is the founder and chairman of Millennium Laboratories, a San Diego-based company specializing in prescription drug monitoring, screening, and genetic testing for U.S. pain management clinics. He told Sport Aviation magazine in December that he got his pilot's license at 17 and he dreamed of becoming a fighter or airline pilot, but didn't qualify because of poor eyesight. He served as Massachusetts commissioner of aeronautics and is a pilot for a nonprofit that provides medical assistance flights.

The museum opened in 2012 in three hangars at the northwest corner of the Colorado Springs Airport and is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for one-hour, 45-minute tours led by volunteer docents that include hangars where WestPac Restorations is restoring vintage aircraft. The museum is ranked as the third-best attraction in the Colorado Springs area by users of the TripAdvisor.com travel website after the Garden of the Gods Park and Battlefield Colorado, an outdoor laser tag course.

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Copyright 2014 - The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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